Keeping an eye on your kids, pets or your property via an app on your smartphone is easy thanks to the latest generation of IP cameras such as the HomeMonitor system. Here’s our Y-cam HomeMonitor review.
PRICE WHEN REVIEWED
£199 inc VAT
Y-CAM HOMEMONITOR REVIEW
The choice of home security cameras is overwhelming, but in the last couple of years what were previously called IP cameras have become much easier to use, and the HomeMonitor system lets you keeping an eye on your kids, pets or your property via an app on your smartphone, just like the Nest Cam. Here’s our Y-cam Homemonitor review.
Cameras that connect to your broadband router are different from CCTV systems, as you can view the live feed and recorded clips remotely on a PC or mobile device.
Y-CAM HOMEMONITOR REVIEW: PRICE
The HomeMonitor range includes both a weatherproof outdoor camera (the HD Pro which costs £190 from Amazon) and an indoor version, called Indoor HDS which costs £109 from Amazon. Both models have night vision, so they can capture video round the clock. Since they use infrared LEDs at night, footage is black and white rather than colour.
Both models have a resolution of 1280×720 – that’s three times more pixels than older VGA IP cameras, which have a paltry 640×480 resolution. (There is an Indoor VGA model in the HomeMonitor range, but you should avoid it as image quality is poor.) If you’d prefer Full HD 1920×1080, look to the Nest Cam or UCam247-HDO1080.
Y-CAM HOMEMONITOR REVIEW: FEATURES AND DESIGN
The HD Pro has a large detachable antenna which you have to use for Wi-Fi operation. The Indoor HDS has a stubby fixed aerial.
As well as letting you watch the live feed, the HomeMonitorsystem can record video clips when movement is detected in areas you define. Both the live feed and recorded videos come from ‘the cloud’ rather than directly from the camera. This is because the video is routed via Y-Cam’s servers before you see it.
There are pros and cons to this method. The first drawback is that the live feed isn’t actually live. It’s roughly 10-15 seconds delayed in our experience. That’s not usually a problem, though, even if something was happening that required you to take action, since you’ll get a motion alert on your smartphone almost the instant motion is first detected.
The second con – if it is a con – is that there’s no alternative choice of storage. You can’t put a memory card inside the camera as you can with the UCam247, nor can you set a NAS drive as the destination for recordings.
However, for most people this is an advantage as it means the HomeMonitor is completely hassle-free. It saves the last seven days’ worth of motion recordings for free in the cloud (where they’re a lot safer from deletion or theft) and means you don’t have to provide your own SD card or leave a PC or NAS drive running 24/7.
Unfortunately, the recorded quality is lower than the maximum the camera is capable of, as it’s optimised for today’s broadband speeds. You can download recordings and keep them, but you need to do this before they’re more than seven days old.
Another point to note is that unlike Nest’s continuous recording which uploads to the cloud 24/7 (for a fairly substantial monthly subscription cost) the HomeMonitor saves only the clips where motion was detected. If it makes a mistake and misses the motion, or cuts off the recording too early (and it does do this from time to time) you may not get to see what you needed to.
Y-CAM HOMEMONITOR REVIEW: INSTALLATION
Unlike older cameras which were a pain to configure and required expert network knowledge if you wanted to watch the video feed over the internet, the HomeMonitor cameras can be set up by anyone.
While you still need to start with a web browser on a laptop or PC, and a network cable connected between the camera and your broadband router, clear instructions make installation a breeze. You head to the HomeMonitor website, create a free account, type in the camera’s unique ID and you’ll then see the video feed there on the page.
Assuming you want the camera to connect via Wi-Fi, you select your wireless network, enter the password and then you can relocate the HD Pro to the place you want it to monitor.
Everything is supplied in the box, including a wall-mounting bracket through which the wires run. This does mean drilling a hole in your wall, but unless you already have a handily placed outdoor socket, you’ll have to do this anyway. The HD Pro supports PoE (power over Ethernet) which is unlikely to be useful unless you’re installing the camera at your business premises since most UK homes aren’t wired up for PoE.
The final step is to choose the camera’s settings, such as defining one or two motion detection zones and a schedule for motion detection. For outdoor use, it makes sense to leave it on permanently, but for indoor monitoring, you might want to enable recording only when you’re not at home.
Y-CAM HOMEMONITOR REVIEW: APPS AND WEBSITE
Update November 2015: Y-cam has added a few new features in a recent update. One is geo-fencing which can be enabled or disabled for each camera. With it enabled, your camera will start watching out for motion when you leave and turn off recording when you return. You have to enable the feature on your phone when you’re at home or in the physical location where the camera is installed as it uses your phone’s GPS.
The second new feature is on-demand recording which provides a record button on the live feed view so you can capture what’s going on right then.
You can log in to your account on the HomeMonitor website to watch the live streams and play recorded clips, but there are also apps available for iOS, Android, Kindle Fire tablets and even Windows Phone 8 – a platform rarely supported by anything, let alone IP cameras.
The website and apps have a similar look and feel, and they’re very easy to use. Taking the iPhone app as an example, the main screen shows the list of cameras with three buttons next to each. Tapping on the video thumbnail starts the live stream (there’s reasonably good quality audio on the cameras too), and the buttons let you toggle the camera on and off, enable and disable motion recording, and choose whether or not to receive motion alerts for that camera.
Swiping right brings up a list of the last seven days, and you can tap a day to see the recordings for that day. Each recording clearly shows the time, camera name and duration of the clip, so if you have multiple cameras it’s easy to see which one recorded the clip.
As a package, the HomeMonitor is the best we’ve seen to date. Image quality could be better (the range needs a 1080p camera), but it’s the ease of setup and clearly laid out apps and website which makes it so good. The Nest Cam has better image quality, but the app is flakey and playback performance isn’t as good. Plus, Nest Aware costs quite a lot per month for the subscription, without which there’s no recording at all. The HomeMonitor cameras are far from the cheapest around, with no subscription costs, they are still good value. The indoor version – the HomeMonitor HDS – is available on Amazon for just £109. That really is money well spent.